Speed limit revisions discussed in eight statehouses

February 25, 2021

Keith Goble

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Pursuit underway in statehouses around the country would revise speed limit rules. Legislation introduced include the elimination of speed limit differentials for cars and trucks, increased speeds for all vehicles, and one state with legislation to slow all traffic.

The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association says roadways are safest when all vehicles are allowed to travel at the same rate of speed. The Association does not advocate for a specific speed limit.

West Virginia

If a West Virginia state lawmaker gets his way, the maximum speed limit on rural portions of interstate would get a bump.

State law allows 70 mph travel on rural interstates. In 2019, a House resolution approved by the Legislature gave the West Virginia Department of Transportation authority to increase the speed limit on interstate highways from 70 mph to 75 mph.

Sen. Robert Karnes, R-Randolph, has introduced a bill to authorize 80 mph speeds on affected roadways. The bill provides an exception for portions of those highways passing through city limits.

Currently, Maine is the lone state east of the Mississippi River with speed limits posted above 70 mph. The Pine Tree State has rural interstates posted at 75 mph.

The bill, SB331, is in the Senate Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.

North Dakota

Meanwhile, the North Dakota House voted to kill a bill to increase speed limits for all drivers along certain highways.

State law now authorizes speeds of 75 mph on Interstates 29 and 94. Speeds along four-lane divided highways are set at 70 mph. Two-lane highways are posted at 65 mph.

Sponsored by Rep. Ben Koppelman, R-West Fargo, HB1315 sought to authorize vehicles to travel 80 mph on interstates. Another provision in the bill would set the minimum speed on affected roadways at 40 mph.

A similar effort during the previous regular session was killed on the House floor via a tie vote.

During the most recent vote, legislators shared concern about drivers using the proposed threshold to further push the limit in excess of 80 mph.

Rep. Greg Westlind, R-Cando, added that many large trucks have their speed governed and a wider speed gap would result between affected trucks and other vehicles.

Advocates at the statehouse said the change would allow for more efficient travel through the state. Supporters add that nearby South Dakota, Montana and Wyoming already allow 80 mph travel.

Indiana

The most recent effort at the Indiana statehouse to do away with a speed limit differential on the state’s fastest roadways has once again failed.

Indiana law now allows cars to drive 70 mph while vehicles in excess of 26,000 pounds are limited to 65 mph.

Sponsored by Rep. Mike Aylesworth, R-Hebron, HB1029 would do away with the speed gap on rural stretches of interstates.

The bill died in the House Roads and Transportation Committee without getting consideration.

The outcome marks the fourth time in recent years that Aylesworth has introduced legislation to eliminate the slower speed for large trucks. Each attempt failed to advance from committee.

Maryland

One Maryland bill is intended to reduce abrupt changes in speed limits for vehicles entering or exiting Interstate 495. The roadway has a posted speed limit of 55 mph.

As introduced, SB297 would require all expressways and interstate highways that connect with I-495 to have the same maximum speed limit at the point of connection for at least 5 miles from the point of entrance to or exit from I-495.

Affected roadways are Interstates 270, 95 and 295, and U.S. 50.

Sen. Joanne Benson, D-Prince George, said the change is needed to avoid sudden speed changes. She noted that highway speeds can differ by as much as 15 mph in certain areas.

The bill also calls for signs to be posted at least every 5 miles.

Benson amended the language of her bill to include a provision to raise the speed limit on Interstates 270 and 495 from 55 mph to 70 mph for all vehicles.

The Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee recently heard testimony on the bill but did not vote.

New Hampshire

In New Hampshire, the House Transportation Committee held a hearing last week on a bill to authorize speed limit increases on certain state roadways.

Speed limits in the state are 65 mph for all vehicles traveling on interstates. The speed limit on other limited access highways is 55 mph.

New Hampshire authorizes 70 mph speeds for all vehicles along an 80-mile stretch of Interstate 93 from mile marker 45 near Canterbury to the Vermont border.

Sponsored by Rep. Josh Yokela, R-Rockingham, the bill would authorize 70 mph speeds on interstates. The speed limit on other limited-access highways would be 60 mph.

Additionally, HB628 would increase the speed limit along the portion of I-93 to 75 mph.

A fiscal note attached to the bill shows the cost to update signs on affected roadways would cost the state about $178,000.

The bill remains in the House Transportation Committee.

New Jersey

A New Jersey state legislator has renewed his pursuit to overhaul how speed limits are set on the state’s busiest roadways.

Sen. Declan O’Scanlon, R-Monmouth, is behind a bill to change the formula for setting speed limits. Specifically, he wants speed limits on limited access highways that include the New Jersey Turnpike and Garden State Parkway to be set using the 85th percentile formula.

The formula bases speed limits on the rate at or below which 85 % of drivers are traveling.

O’Scanlon offered the same bill during the 2018 regular session, but it failed to advance from committee.

If approved, the New Jersey Department of Transportation and other state traffic agencies would use 85th percentile studies to set speed limits. State agencies would reevaluate speed limits at least every 10 years, or when a limited-access highway is substantially changed.

O’Scanlon has said he is not looking to change how fast people drive.

“We are talking about having speed limits reflect the speeds people are already driving so that we have a better, more uniform flow of traffic,” O’Scanlon previously stated.

He adds that the change would result in “the smoothest, safest level of traffic flow and inflict the least amount of arbitrary punishment on people behaving reasonably.”

Also included in the bill is a provision to limit fines for speeding violations. Citations handed out for speeding on a roadway where a traffic study has not been completed would be limited to $20. Penalty points also would be prohibited for speed violations on affected roadways.

The bill, S608, is in the Senate Transportation Committee.

South Carolina

One South Carolina state legislator has introduced a bill that addresses concern about slow-moving traffic on the state’s fastest highways.

State law prohibits slow-moving vehicles from impeding “the normal and reasonable movement” of traffic. Exceptions are made for when reduced speed is necessary for safe operation or in compliance with law.

The South Carolina Department of Transportation and local authorities also are authorized to establish minimum speed zones. Affected areas can be set when an engineering and traffic investigation shows that slow speeds on a portion of highway consistently impede the normal and reasonable movement of traffic.

Sponsored by Rep. J. Todd Rutherford, D-Richland, H3155 would raise the minimum speed limit along the state’s interstates. Specifically, the bill reads that along highways with a maximum posted speed of 70 mph the minimum speed would be 50 mph – up from 45 mph.

A fiscal impact statement attached to the bill notes that the state DOT estimates about 230 signs would be needed to post new minimum speed limit. The cost is estimated at $200,000.

The bill is in the House Education and Public Works Committee.

Vermont

Pursuit underway in Vermont would slow the speed for all vehicles on the state’s fastest highways.

Sponsored by Rep. Jim McCullough, D-Williston, the bill would reduce the maximum speed limit on Interstates 89 and 91 from 65 mph to 55 mph.

McCullough has highlighted the cost savings for driving at a slower rate of speed.

Data provided to lawmaker has shown that optimal fuel efficiency for vehicles is dependent on travel at 55 mph. Additionally, driving at 60 mph reduces efficiency by 3%, and driving at 65 mph cuts into efficiency by 8%.

In addition to saving fuel, advocates say the lower speed limit would reduce crashes, and help with climate change.

The bill, H8, is in the House Transportation Committee. LL

More state trends

Keith Goble, state legislative editor for Land Line Media, keeps track of many trends among statehouses across the U.S. Here are some recent articles by him.

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Keith Goble

Keith Goble has been covering trucking-related laws since 2000. His daily web reports, radio news and “OOIDA’s State Watch” in Land Line Magazine are the industry’s premier sources for information regarding state legislative affairs.